This week I am linking up with Lauren from Bellows in the Berkshires blog. We are both writing about how to best support families going through the adoption process. Lauren has experience adopting through foster care and shares her experiences. Check out her post here and show her some love! Thanks!
Domestic Adoption: Supporting Adoptive Families
We are an adoptive family. We adopted our three children as newborns. They were all domestic adoptions using a private agency. Many people don’t know or understand what goes into domestic adoption or the stresses it may bring to families. Outsiders may want to help, but they are unsure of what kind of things are needed.
Adoption is a different route to start or add to your family. In many ways, there are several similarities but also many differences. My hope is to help offer some suggestions of how one can help.
Say you know a family that has stated that they are signing up to adopt domestically through a private agency. That’s a pretty exciting thing. It’s pretty nerve wrecking too. As a friend or family member, how can you best offer to support a loved one? First, you must understand what a family must do to be able to adopt.
I will be referring to newborn domestic adoption, even though it is possible to adopt children that are older through a private domestic adoption.
*There will be training to complete.
*Never-ending paperwork, home inspections & child proofing the home
*Background checks, fingerprinting, & medical exams
*Personal & professional references
*Financial resources to cover the costs
*Complete strangers (social workers) asking & questioning every aspect of your life
*Making a family profile book which will offer the first impression to potential expectant birth families
Then There Comes:
*Waiting…..then waiting some more……and then waiting even more
*Meeting or having a phone call with a potential birth family-a.k.a blind first date
Of course, AFTER your child comes home there is also:
*Meeting your child for the first time
*Waiting for the termination of rights which takes several days & varies by state
*Bonding with the new baby or child & having more post home visits with a social worker
*Waiting for a putative father registry to come back clear. Required if a birth father doesn’t terminate his rights at birth
*Lots of visitors wanting to meet your new child
*Finalizing in court that the child is legally yours forever
The Ongoing Journey: It’s Not a Destination
*Maintaining/navigating through a new relationship through open adoption
*Figuring out how to parent on top of all the adoption related stuff
The Never-Ending List:
It’s quite a long list and it seems like a lot, huh? Every situation is different, but the majority of these things happen. It is overwhelming just typing and reading this list, now think about the adoptive parents actually having to go through these things. How can you as family or friend best support the adoptive family?
Ways To Offer Support: During The Wait
First off if someone you know shares that they are adopting, you should treat them just like anyone expecting a new child. The due date/arrival date just needs determining still. Mother’s Day was always hard for me before children. The year we were paper ready and waiting a good friend of mine sent me a Mother’s Day card for an expectant mother. It’s a joyful time, and that made it very real and special for me.
Next, ask how they are doing during the wait. Really take the time to listen. Waiting is rough, and much doubt can creep in especially for the families that have waited some time to have a forever family. Let them share or not share their thoughts on how the wait is going. If they don’t want to talk, let them know you are available to chat anytime.
Keep Them Busy:
Invite them to do things to keep them busy. Offer to help with decorating the nursery or register for a baby registry. If the season allows go garage sale shopping to find items for the child.
Ask how you can help financially. The burden of how to come up with the money to adopt is also stressful. I am not saying to give them money and even if you did they probably wouldn’t take it, but offer to help with a fundraiser or garage sale where all the proceeds go toward the adoption.
Plan a baby shower for them. Ask them if they want a baby shower before the child’s arrival or after the baby comes home as a shower/meet the child type shower. Some people feel more comfortable waiting to have a shower until the child comes home with them, and that is perfectly acceptable. Let that be okay and plan a shower anyways.
Many adoptive families will either have match meetings with potential birth parents or phone calls. There will be phone calls and emails about possible situations from the agency. The adoptive family may get all the way to the birth of the child and then there is a change of heart. All of these situations bring a loss. Inquire about these things and be there to support them if the potential birth parents go a different route.
Your mind and heart get so wrapped up into the process and if the potential birth parents or you go a different direction at any time it is devastating and a significant loss. Acknowledge their loss because it is so real and hard when no one understands that. After we experienced one of these losses I had to attend a baby shower for a family member, where other women there were pregnant as well and were comparing bellies and taking pictures. Talk about excruciating. Excruciating also because no one could relate to my loss or even knew how hard this struggle was for me.
How To Offer Support: After Coming Home
Plan for friends and family or even a group of woman from your church to sign up for everyone to bring meals to the adoptive family after the baby comes home. As adoptive families, we don’t need to heal physically but we are emotionally drained and tired from having a newborn. Bringing meals to the family is super helpful and appreciated. Also offer your services of cleaning or grocery shopping, or caring for other children for a couple of hours if there are others living in the home.
Give The Adoptive Family Time:
Also, understand that you may want to come meet the new family member, but the adoptive family and adoptee are just learning about each other and figuring out this new relationship and developing a bond. Give the family some space and time to bond. When you do visit don’t expect to feed and hog the baby. Let the adoptive family do that. If they offer for you to give snuggles then fine, but you can visit and meet the new member without having to hold or feed the baby. Respect that it’s the adoptive families decision. I made that mistake with our first son. Everyone and everybody held, fed, diapered and cared for my son. I felt I owed it to everyone because they had waited so long for this baby also, but my relationship with my son suffered and the bonding took longer. It’s okay to say no or to not offer for them to hold the child. Remember this child didn’t have nine months of getting to know who his new mom or dad is, only a few days or weeks.
Take time to educate yourself about domestic adoption. Learn the proper language and things that aren’t okay to say. Take the time to read a book about adoption, or subscribe to a magazine about adoption. Learn and ask more questions about open adoption in a non-threatening way. Remember it’s not an outsiders business to know all the details about why an adoption plan was made, so be accepting of the information that is shared. Be accepting and include the new family member into the family just like any other child.
Lastly, understand that the adoptive family may also be navigating through a new relationship with the birth family through open adoption. It looks different for every family as well as the different levels of openness. Some relationships are better than others as well. But it’s a real learning curve and this relationship is very bittersweet. My first few months home with my son I suffered from a lot of unnecessary guilt. I felt very guilty about enjoying my new son, while his birth mom was missing out on these things. Pictures, videos & updates became more about showing her and keeping her informed instead of me truly just relaxing and enjoying my new son. Just something to remember with the different dynamics in open adoption. Be supportive, non-intrusive and an open arm to cry on or listen. The adoptive family finds comfort knowing you support this new-found relationship.
Remember that just because the child comes home with the family, or they finalize in court, adoption never has an ending destination but is a lifelong journey that will continue throughout the child’s life. With each new stage in life, there will be new struggles, joys, and hurdles to overcome and navigate through. So continue to be a source of ongoing love and support to the adoptive family as they journey through the beauty that is involved in adoption.
If you have been touched by adoption in any way or know someone else that has I would love to hear from you or for you to share this post with them! Please remember to share this post! Remember to subscribe to receive new updates and exclusives!
Also, don’t forget to take a minute to go check out Lauren’s post!